Jeff Bezos would owe $2B a year under proposed Washington wealth tax

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, would owe close to $2 billion a year in state income taxes under a proposed wealth tax in Washington.

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Washington state lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this year that would impose a 1% levy on "extraordinary" intangible financial assets including cash, stocks, publicly traded options, futures contracts, pension funds and bonds, but not income.

"Asking the state's poorest residents to pay six times more in taxes, as a share of their income, than the state's highest income households, including some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, is unconscionable," the proposal said.

WASHINGTON STATE EYES BILLIONAIRE TAX ON THE WEALTHY

Legislators estimate the tax would raise about $2.5 billion in new revenue. About 100 taxpayers in the state have wealth in excess of $1 billion, according to the state Department of Revenue.

But experts say the levy would only target about a dozen individuals living in Washington and would be overly reliant on four of them: Bezos, Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and MacKenzie Scott.

According to a recent analysis published by Jared Walczak at the Tax Foundation, 97% of the revenue from the tax would come from those mega-billionaires. Bezos, worth about $190 billion, would owe about $1.9 billion a year in taxes under the proposal. Gates, worth about $123.4 billion, would owe about $1.2 billion, while Balmer, worth an estimated $80 billion, would owe about $800 million. Scott, Bezos' ex-wife, would owe roughly $570 million. Net worth estimates are based on Forbes' data.

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But because those four individuals do not have any day-to-day corporate role that requires them to be in Washington, they could simply leave the state to avoid the tax, Walczak said. In fact, state tax estimates actually factored Bezos leaving Washington into their revenue, since the total amount owed by the four billionaires exceeds the $2.5 billion in estimated revenue.

"This would not only foil the wealth tax but would deprive the state of other revenue as well. Washington state does not have an income tax, so it does not stand to lose quite as much from these departures—at least directly—as some other states, but these wealthy residents still pay a disproportionate share of state and local taxes and contribute substantially to the local economy," Walczak said. "Chasing them out would have serious consequences beyond the failure of a new tax."

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The bill's sponsor, Rep. Noel Frame, a Seattle Democrat, said the measure isn't an attack on the state's richest residents.

“It actually really isn’t about them, it’s about the working people of Washington who right now are disproportionally paying for community investments like public education, public health, you name it," she told The Associated Press. “This is about equity in the tax code."

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